Every day you make loads of food-related decisions. As you as you get up, you decide what to eat for breakfast and how much, what type of plate or bowl you are going to serve it on, if you are going to include condiments, etc. And that’s just breakfast. In study by Dr. Brian Wansink et al. (I’m totally loving his book “Mindless Eating”) study subjects were asked approximately how many food decisions they believed they made each day. The average response was 15 but when probed, the researchers found that the subjects actually made over 200 food-related decisions each day! Complicating this data is our constant exposure to the sites and smells of food via radio, print and TV ads as well as giant billboards showing mouth-watering foods and drinks.
Too much choice can cause overeating and overdrinking
One of the reason for overeat (the major cause of overweight and obesity) is the dizzying amount of food choices we must make every day. Our bodies have not evolved much in the past 10,000 years yet we are confronted daily by foods that our ill-equipped bodies and brains have to deal with. Our human brains just can’t handle all of this “free” choice and we end up eating and drinking more than we need to fuel our bodies.
What to do? Give yourself NO CHOICE
The key to dealing with the sometimes overwhelming (and often sabotaging) effects of the hundreds of food choices we are confronted with each day is to simply ELIMINATE CHOICE. Decide ahead of time and then commit 100%. I often tell myself when confronted by the dessert cart or a huge party platter “no choice.” I’ve decided ahead of time this week what I eating and I’m sticking to it 100%.
I suggest jotting down a food plan (nothing too fancy – it should only take you 3-5 minutes) for the week on Sunday night and then for the weekend on Friday and then commit 100% to your plan. Make sure to plan in some scheduled treats as well. If you are going to a party, out to a restaurant or going on vacation, plan ahead for that too.
Why I say 100% commitment (and the problem with the 80/20 rule)
Have you heard of the 80/20 rule? The notion of 80/20 is that you eat healthy foods 80% of the time and allow yourself to indulge in your treat foods 20% of the time, you will be healthy. This can cause problems because – what is 80% anyway? Unless you are constantly tallying your macros and calories I don’t think most of us can accurately rely on this and I don’t think we are terribly skilled at applying this rule when confronted by over 200 food choices per day. I say: why not commit to 100%? This doesn’t mean that you can never indulge in a treat (I myself am partial to coal oven pizza, sweet potato fries and frozen yogurt) but those treats are PLANNED, they are not spontaneous eats. Why not commit 100% to planning your foods? You make a mistake, so be it, just get back on track at your next meal.